The fact of the matter is that General Clark was absolutely right. McCain's service, while heroic and honorable, is not very relevant when it comes to preparing him to be the military's ultimate commander. His experience didn't involve executive decision making in the military, or global strategy. Very few candidates for the presidency have had the experience in life that prepares them for that role. In fact, McCain said it himself in 2003, that some of our best Commanders in Chief had no military experience at all.Jac says:
[I]s it true that McCain is "reluctant to talk about" his heroism in Vietnam? I don't know. But he hasn't been reluctant to say "I'm John McCain and I approve this message" in an ad showing footage of him as a POW, intercut with a closeup of McCain with the word "hero" emblazoned on his forehead....I think there are some things that Barack Obama has tried to place beyond debate, such as the things his wife has said in political speeches on his behalf.
No matter what your opinion is of Barack Obama, I think you have to give him this: he'd never approve an ad that was based on highlighting a specific argument for why he's qualified to be president, but then later try to shut down any rational discussion of that precise point.
Recoiling, disgust, and outrage — it's a response of a kind. A gesture. An expression. It's a move in the debate. The question is whether it works as a good enough statement. You can ask someone a question to which they will respond with an icy "How dare you ask me that?" When are you going to feel chastened and apologize, and when are you going to call their bluff?
I think in the case of McCain's experience in Vietnam, he really is best off not attempting to articulate how it might be a qualification. It's something that he did, something that happened to him, and it is what it is. We all know it and can rely on it to the extent we see fit. There is nothing more for him to say about it. If he were to begin to talk about what it was like and how it has formed him as a man, it would seem immodest and extreme. He would have to put us all in our place, and he might seem like an angry old man of the past. The silence is eloquence enough.
ADDED: Jac has done an update and he links approvingly to this:
Oh, lord! That was such an offensive attempt at a gotcha! MSNBC is a piece of work.